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doning your present post, contrary to your | fication is, that this post, after the last ships own opinion; but only to mention my own went past it, was held contrary to my wishes ideas of the importance of those passes, and and opinion, as I conceived it to be a hazardous that you cannot give too much attention to one: but it having been determined on by a their security, by having works erected on the full council of general officers, and a resolution most advantageous places for that purpose." of Congress having been received, strongly exLee, in reply, objected to removing from his pressive of their desire that the channel of the actual encampment at Northcastle. "It would river which we had been laboring to stop for a give us," said he, "the air of being frightened; long time at that place, might be obstructed, it would expose a fine, fertile country to their if possible; and knowing that this could not ravages; and I must add, that we are as se- be done, unless there were batteries to protect cure as we could be in any position whatever." the obstructions, I did not care to give an abAfter stating that he should deposit his stores, solute order for withdrawing the garrison, till I &c., in a place fully as safe, and more central could get round and see the situation of things; than Peekskill, he adds: "As to ourselves, and then it became too late, as the place was light as we are, several retreats present them- invested. Upon the passing of the last ships, selves. In short, if we keep a good look-out, I had given it as my opinion to General Greene, we are in no danger; but I must entreat your under whose care it was, that it would be best Excellency to enjoin the officers posted at Fort to evacuate the place; but, as the order was Lee, to give us the quickest intelligence, if they discretionary, and his opinion different from observe any embarkation on the North River." mine, it was unhappily delayed too long; to As to the affair of Fort Washington, all that my great grief." Lee observed on the subject was: "Oh, general, why would you be over-persuaded by men of inferior judgment to your own? It was a cursed affair."


Lee's allusion to men of inferior judgment, was principally aimed at Greene, whose influence with the commander-in-chief seems to have excited the jealousy of other officers of rank. So Colonel Tilghman, Washington's aide-de-camp, writes on the 17th, to Robert R. Livingston of New York, "We were in a fair way of finishing the campaign with credit to ourselves, and, I think, to the disgrace of Mr. Howe; and, had the general followed his own opinion, the garrison would have been withdrawn immediately upon the nemy's falling down from Dobbs' Ferry. But General Greene was positive that our forces might at any time be drawn off under the guns of Fort Lee. Fatal experience has evinced the contrary."*

Washington's own comments on the reduction of the fort, made in a letter to his brother Augustine, are worthy of special note. "This is a most unfortunate affair, and has given me great mortification; as we have lost not only two thousand men,† that were there, but a good deal of artillery, and some of the best arms we had. And what adds to my morti

Am. Archives, 5th Series, ill. 780.

The correspondence of Washington with his brother, is full of gloomy anticipations. "In ten days from this date, there will not be above two thousand men, if that number, of the fixed established regiments on this side of Hudson River, to oppose Howe's whole army; and very little more on the other, to secure the eastern colonies, and the important passes leading through the Highlands to Albany, and the country about the lakes. In short, it is impossible for me, in the compass of a letter, to give you any idea of our situation, of my difficulties, and of the constant perplexities I meet with, derived from the unhappy policy of short enlistments, and delaying them too long. Last fall, or winter, before the army, which was then to be aised, was set about, I represented in clear and explicit terms the evils which would arise from short enlistments, the expense which must attend the raising an army every year, and the futility of such an army when raised; and if I had spoken with a prophetic spirit, I could not have foretold the evils with more accuracy than I did. All the year since, I have been pressing Congress to delay no time in engaging men upon such terms as would insure success, telling them that the longer it was delayed, the more difficult it would prove. But the measure was not commenced until it was too late to be effected. * * * I am wearied almost to death with

† The number of prisoners, as returned by Sir William the retrograde motion of things; and I solemn

Howe, was 2,818, of whom 2,607 were privates. They were marched off to New York at midnight.

ly protest, that a pecuniary reward of twenty

ET. 44.]



THE ENEMY CROSS THE HUDSON-CROSSING OF THE HACKENSACK. thousand pounds a year would not induce me | sack, and hem the whole garrison in between to undergo what I do, and, after all, perhaps the two rivers. Nothing would save it but a to lose my character; as it is impossible, under prompt retreat to secure the bridge over the such a variety of distressing circumstances, to Hackensack. No time was to be lost. The conduct matters agreeably to public expecta- troops sent out to check the enemy were retion." called. The retreat commenced in all haste. There was a want of horses and waggons; a great quantity of baggage, stores, and provisions, therefore, was abandoned. So was all the artillery excepting two twelve-pounders. Even the tents were left standing, and campkettles on the fire. With all their speed they did not reach the Hackensack River before the Vanguard of the enemy was close upon them. Expecting a brush, the greater part hurried over the bridge, others crossed at the ferry, and some higher up. The enemy, however, did not dispute the passage of the river; but Cornwallis stated in his despatches, that, had not the Americans been apprised of his approach, he would have surrounded them at the fort. Some of his troops that night occupied the tents they had abandoned.

WITH the capture of Fort Washington, the project of obstructing the navigation of the Hudson, at that point, was at an end. Fort Lee, consequently, became useless, and Washington ordered all the ammunition and stores to be removed, preparatory to its abandonment. This was effected with the whole of the ammunition, and a part of the stores, and every exertion was making to hurry off the remainder, when, early in the morning of the 20th, intelligence was brought that the enemy, with two hundred boats, had crossed the river and landed a few miles above. General Greene immediately ordered the garrison under arms, sent out troops to hold the enemy in check, and sent off an express to Washington, at



From Hackensack, Colonel Grayson, one of Washington's aides-de-camp, wrote instantly, by his orders, to General Lee; informing him that the enemy had crossed into the Jerseys, and, as was reported, in great numbers. Excellency," adds Grayson, "thinks it would be advisable in you to remove the troops under your command on this side of the North River, and there wait for further commands.”

The enemy had crossed the Hudson, on a very rainy night, in two divisions, one diagonally upward from King's Bridge, landing on the west side, about eight o'clock; the other marched up the east bank, three or four miles, and then crossed to the opposite shore. The whole corps, six thousand strong, and under the command of Lord Cornwallis, were landed, with their cannon, by ten o'clock, at a place called Closter Dock, five or six miles above Fort Lee, and under that line of lofty and per- is evidently changing the seat of war to this pendicular cliffs known as the Palisades. seamen," says Sir William Howe, "distinguish-side of the North River, and the inhabitants of


ed themselves remarkably on this occasion, by their readiness to drag their cannon up a very narrow road, for nearly half a mile, to the top of a precipice, which bounds the shore for some miles on the west side."*

Washington arrived at the fort in threequarters of an hour. Being told that the enemy were extending themselves across the country, he at once saw that they intended to form a line from the Hudson to the Hacken

* Some writers have stated that Cornwallis crossed on the 18th. They have been misled by a letter of Sir William Howe, which gives that date. Lord Howe, in a letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, gives the date we have stated (the 20th), which is the true one.

Washington himself wrote to Lee on the following day (Nov. 21st). "I am of opinion," said he, "and the gentlemen about me concur in it, that the public interest requires your coming over to this side of the Hudson with the Continental troops. The enemy


* * *

this country will expect the Continental army to give them what support they can; and failing in that, they will cease to depend upon, or support a force from which no protection is derived. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance, that at least an appearance of force should be made, to keep this province in con

nection with the others."

In this moment of hurry and agitation, Colonel Reed, also, Washington's fidus Achates, wrote to Lee, but in a tone and spirit that may surprise the reader, knowing the devotion he had hitherto manifested for the commander-inchief. After expressing the common wish that Lee should be at the principal scene of action,




At Hackensack the army did not exceed three thousand men, and they were dispirited by ill success, and the loss of tents and baggage. They were without intrenching tools, in a flat country, where there were no natural fastnesses. Washington resolved, therefore, to avoid any attack from the enemy, though, by so doing, he must leave a fine and fertile region open to their ravages; or a plentiful storehouse, from which they would draw voluntary supplies. A second move was necessary, again to avoid the danger of being enclosed between two rivers. Leaving three regiments, there

he adds: "I do not mean to flatter or praise you, at the expense of any other; but I do think it is entirely owing to you, that this army, and the liberties of America, so far as they are dependent on it, are not entirely cut off. You have decision, a quality often wanting in minds otherwise valuable, and I ascribe to this our escape from York Island, King's Bridge, and the Plains; and I have no doubt, had you been here, the garrison of Mount Washington would now have composed a part of this army; and from all these circumstances, I confess, I do ardently wish to see you removed from a place where there will be so little call for your judg-fore, to guard the passes of the Hackensack, ment and experience, to the place where they are likely to be so necessary. Nor am I singular in my opinion; every gentleman of the family, the officers and soldiers generally, have a confidence in you. The enemy constantly inquire where you are, and seem to be less confident when you are present."


Then alluding to the late affair at Fort Washington, he continues: "General Washington's own judgment, seconded by representations from us, would, I believe, have saved the men, and their arms; but, unluckily, General Greene's judgment was contrary. This kept the general's mind in a state of suspense, till the stroke was struck. Oh, general! An indecisive mind is one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall an army; how often have I lamented it this campaign. All circumstances considered, we are in a very awful and alarming situation; one that requires the utmost wisdom, and firmness of mind. As soon as the season will admit, I think yourself and some others should go to Congress, and form the plan of the new army. * ** * * I must conclude, with my clear and explicit opinion, that your presence is of the last importance."*

Well might Washington apprehend that his character and conduct, in the perplexities in which he was placed, would be liable to be misunderstood by the public, when the friend of his bosom could so misjudge him.

Reed had evidently been dazzled by the daring spirit and unscrupulous policy of Lee, who, in carrying out his measures, heeded but little the counsels of others, or even the orders of government; Washington's respect for both, and the caution with which he hesitated in adopting measures in opposition to them, was stamped by the bold soldier and his admirers as indecision.

Memoirs of Reed, 1. 255.

and serve as covering parties, he again decamped, and threw himself on the west bank of the Passaic, in the neighborhood of Newark.

His army, small as it was, would soon be less. The term of enlistment of those under General Mercer, from the flying camp, was nearly expired; and it was not probable that, disheartened as they were by defeats and losses, exposed to inclement weather, and unaccustomed to military hardships, they would longer forego the comforts of their homes, to drag out the residue of a ruinous campaign.

In addition, too, to the superiority of the force that was following him, the rivers gave the enemy facilities, by means of their shipping, to throw troops in his rear. In this extremity he cast about in every direction for assistance. Colonel Reed, on whom he relied as on a second self, was despatched to Burlington, with a letter to Governor William Livingston, describing his hazardous situation, and entreating him to call out a portion of the New Jersey militia; and General Mifflin was sent to Philadelphia to implore immediate aid from Congress, and the local authorities.

His main reliance for prompt assistance, however, was upon Lee. On the 24th came a letter from that general, addressed to Colonel Reed. Washington opened it, as he was accustomed to do, in the absence of that officer, with letters addressed to him on the business of the army. Lee was at his old encampment at Northcastle. He had no means, he said, of crossing at Dobbs' Ferry, and the round by King's Ferry would be so great, that he could not get there in time to answer any purpose. I have, therefore," added he, "ordered General Heath, who is close to the only ferry which can be passed, to detach two thousand men to apprise his Excellency, and await his further orders; a mode which I flatter myself will

Er. 44.]



answer better what I conceive to be the spirit | when we must commit treason against the laws of the orders, than should I move the corps of the State, for the salvation of the State. from hence. Withdrawing our troops from The present crisis demands this brave, virtuous hence would be attended with some very seri- kind of treason." He urges President Bowous consequences, which at present would be doin, therefore, to waive all formalities, and tedious to enumerate; as to myself," adds he, not only complete the regiments prescribed to "I hope to set out to-morrow." the province, but to add four companies to each regiment. "We must not only have a force sufficient to cover your province, and all these fertile districts, from the insults and irruptions of the tyrant's troops, but sufficient to drive 'em out of all their quarters in the Jerseys, or all is lost. * In the mean time, send up a formidable body of militia to supply the place of the Continental troops, which I am ordered to convey over the river. Let your people be well supplied with blankets, and warm clothes, as I am determined, by the help of God, to unnest 'em, even in the dead of winter."*

A letter of the same date (Nov. 23d), from Lee to James Bowdoin, president of the Massachusetts council, may throw some light on his motives for delaying to obey the orders of the commander-in-chief. "Before the unfortunate affair of Fort Washington," writes he, "it was my opinion that the two armies-that on the east, and that on the west side of the North River-must rest each on its own bottom; that the idea of detaching and reinforcing from one side to the other, on every motion of the enemy, was chimerical; but to harbor such a thought in our present circumstances, is absolute insanity. In this invasion, should the enemy alter the present direction of their op erations, and attempt to open the passage of the Highlands, or enter New England, I should never entertain the thought of being succored by the western ariny. I know it is impossible. We must, therefore, depend upon ourselves. To Connecticut and Massachusetts I shall look for assistance. I hope the cursed job of Fort Washington will occasion no dejection the place itself was. of no value. For my own part, I am persuaded that if we only act with common sense, spirit, and decision, the day must be our own."

* * * * **

In another letter to Bowdoin, dated on the following day, and enclosing an extract from Washington's letter of Nov. 21st, he writes: "Indecision bids fair for tumbling down the goodly fabric of American freedom, and, with it, the rights of mankind. 'Twas indecision of Congress prevented our having a noble army, and on an excellent footing. 'Twas indecision in our military councils which cost us the garrison of Fort Washington, the consequence of which must be fatal, unless remedied in time by a contrary spirit. Enclosed I send you an extract of a letter from the general, on which you will make your comments; and I have no doubt you will concur with me in the necessity of raising immediately an army to save us from perdition. Affairs appear in so important a crisis, that I think the resolves of the Congress must no longer too nicely weigh with us. We must save the community, in spite of the ordinances of the legislature. There are times

* *

It is evident Lee considered Washington's star to be on the decline, and his own in the ascendant. The "affair of Fort Washington," and the "indecision of the commander-in-chief,” were apparently his watchwords.

On the following day (24th), he writes to Washington from Northcastle, on the subject of removing troops across the Hudson. "I have received your orders, and shall endeavor to put them in execution, but question whether I shall be able to carry with me any considerable number; not so much from a want of zeal in the men, as from their wretched condition with respect to shoes, stockings, and blankets, which the present bad weather renders more intolerable. I sent Heath orders to transport two thousand men across the river, apprise the general, and wait for further orders; but that great man (as I might have expected) intrenched himself within the letter of his instructions, and refused to part with a single file, though I undertook to replace them with a part of my own." He concludes by showing that, so far from hurrying to the support of his commanderin-chief, he was meditating a side blow of his own devising. "I should march this day with Glover's brigade; but have just received intelligence that Rogers' corps, a part of the light-horse, and another brigade lie in so exposed a situation, as to present us the fairest opportunity of carrying them off. If we succeed, it will have a great effect, and amply compensate for two days' delay."

* Am. Archives, 5th Series, iii. 811.



Scarce had Lee sent this letter, when he received one from Washington, informing him that he had mistaken his views in regard to the troops required to cross the Hudson; it was his (Lee's) division that he wanted to have over. The force under Heath must remain to guard the posts and passes through the Highlands, the importance of which was so infinitely great, that there should not be the least possible risk of losing them. In the same letter Washington, who presumed Lee was by this time at Peekskill, advised him to take every precaution to come by a safe route, and by all means to keep between the enemy and the mountains, as he understood they were taking measures to intercept his march.

Lee's reply was still from Northcastle. He explained that his idea of detaching troops from Heath's division was merely for expedition's sake, intending to replace them from his own. The want of carriages and other causes had delayed him. From the force of the enemy remaining in Westchester County, he did not conceive the number of them in the Jerseys to be near so great as Washington was taught to believe. He had been making a sweep of the country to clear it of the tories. Part of his army had now moved on, and he would set out on the following day. He concluded with the assurance, "I shall take care to obey your Excellency's orders in regard to my march, as exactly as possible."

On the same day, he vents his spleen in a tart letter to Heath. "I perceive," writes he, "that you have formed an idea, that should General Washington remove to the Straits of Magellan, the instructions he left with you, upon a particular occasion, have, to all intents and purposes, invested you with a command separate from, and independent of any other superiors. * That General Heath is by no means to consider himself obliged to obey the second in command." He concluded by informing him that, as the commander-inchief was now separated from them, he (Lee) commanded, of course, on this side of the water, and for the future would, and must be obeyed.

* * *

and had the safety of the Hudson at heart, was in an agony of solicitude. "We have been under marching orders these three days past," writes he, "and only await the directions of General Washington. Should they be to move, all's over with the river this season, and, I fear, forever. General Lee, four or five days ago, had orders to move with his division across the river. Instead of so doing, he ordered General Heath to march his men through, and he would replace them with so many of his. General Heath could not do this consistent with his instructions, but put his men under marching orders to wait his Excellency's orders." Honest George Clinton was still perplexed and annoyed by these marchings and countermarchings; and especially with these incessant retreats. "A strange way of cooking business!" writes he. "We have no particular accounts yet from head-quarters, but I am apt to believe retreating is yet fashionable."

The return of the express sent to Washington, relieved Clinton's anxiety about the Highlands; reiterating the original order, that the division under Heath should remain for the protection of the passes.

Washington was still at Newark when, on the 27th, he received Lee's letter of the 24th, speaking of his scheme of capturing Rogers the partisan. Under other circumstances it might have been a sufficient excuse for his delay, but higher interests were at stake; he immediately wrote to Lee as follows: "My former letters were so full and explicit, as to the necessity of your marching as early as possible, that it is unnecessary to add more on that head. I confess I expected you would have been sooner in motion. The force here, when joined by yours, will not be adequate to any great opposition; at present it is weak, and it has been more owing to the badness of the weather that the enemy's progress has been checked, than any resistance we could make. They are now pushing this way,-part of 'em have passed the Passaic. Their plan is not entirely unfolded, but I shall not be surprised if Philadelphia should turn out the object of their movement.".

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Before receiving this letter, Heath, doubtful whether Washington might not be pressed, and The situation of the little army was daily desirous of having his troops across the Hud- becoming more perilous. In a council of war, son, had sent off an express to him for explicit several of the members urged a move to Morinstructions on that point, and, in the mean ristown, to form a junction with the troops time, had kept them ready for a move. expected from the Northern army. WashingGeneral George Clinton, who was with him, ton, however, still cherished the idea of making

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